The holiday shopping numbers from 2018, the strongest in six years, indicate retail sales are healthy. But as we slide into a quieter shopping period, as well as more uncertain economic times, the urgency to keep Millennials and Gen-Z engaged is top of mind for retailers of all types—from big box stores to beauty brands. That’s because combined, these two demographics make up about 50% of the U.S. population and is projected to grow due to immigration trends. Here’s what this powerful group really wants from retailers.
Free shipping even if that means in-store pickup
Free shipping is one of the most important aspects driving purchasing decisions for all consumers. “75 percent of consumers surveyed expect delivery to be free even on orders under $50.” That’s according to the January 2018 quarterly Consumer View report by the National Retail Federation.
One way brands, especially those without the shipping networks of retail giants, can create win-win situations is to provide free shipping through a BOPIS option (buy online pick up in store). While the most obvious advantage is the reduced delivery costs for retailers, the real benefit is having consumers walk in your store. The good news is BOPIS is attractive to the cost-conscious Gen-Z demographic who is also more likely to frequent brick-and-mortar locations than other age groups. It’s also attractive to Millennials who are balancing cost with the need for speed—and will opt to pick up if that means same-day or next-day delivery instead of waiting two days for free shipping.
The challenge then falls on brands to engage consumers once they enter the store to pick up their purchases. Clothing retailers could consider offering appointments to have shoppers try out a one-time custom fitting or personal shopping experience that introduces them to value-added and personalized services they may not be aware of. Similarly, electronics retailers can offer an introduction on how to use new tech purchases like cameras, fostering brand loyalty and staying top-of-mind when it comes to future purchases of accessories.
Seamlessly connect in-store and mobile interactions
While shoppers as a whole are shifting away from large screens in favor of mobile devices, Gen-Z is the most influential in this area. It’s well established that they prefer in-store shopping over any other age group, but they also want quick access to all their options. They use their phones to research purchases and price shop, and they also use their phones while in-store to research products, and even connect with brands while in the aisles.
They’ve also voiced their opinion that they want technology, including mobile apps, to contribute to retail experiences by helping them quickly find what they want, provide access to high-quality customer service, and help them decide where to shop. Meeting these demand takes the form of everything from enabling quick pay from a phone so they can buy an item at one end of the mall and pick it up at a shop at the other end, to providing services like Reserve with Google. The latter lets shoppers book appointments with brands and retailers directly from their Google search window at the moment they are researching a business or service.
Meaningful experiences still top the list of demands
For Millennials and Gen-Z experiential interactions still matter and retailers need to innovate to keep up with the demand. With projections that Millennials will overpower Boomers in terms of spending power by 2020, the race is one to serve up retail experiences that go beyond window dressing. Recent data by analytics firm Euclid details that Millennials find in-store visits more exciting when a retailer uses technology to demonstrate how a product is relevant. They also value human interactions and say that interacting with knowledgable sales staff influence their purchasing decisions. That data supports 2018 TimeTrade research that found “94% of buyers tend to buy more from a company when they have live interactions with a knowledgeable employee.”
While every retailer may not be in a position to offer over-the-top tech kiosks, they can excel at what they do best in term of experiential and personalized. Sephora, for example, is making waves and boosting sales for all the right reasons by combining elements like in-store classes and a digital community that strengthens trust and brand loyalty.
Regardless of shopping differences, the data all points to a renewal of in-store interest for brands who make service and experience a top priority. It could even be another golden age for brick-and-mortar. Either way, the kids are alright.